After the previous blog about the Styx Pride of Lions, we thought you may enjoy reading more about the Roller Coaster coalition and the last surviving male that until recently dominated the Styx Pride.

Information/background has been gathered from various sites (Mala Mala, Londolozi, Djuma, Savanna, Nkorho, Elephant Plains, Singita, Exeter, Arathusa, Ulusaba, Inyati, Wildwatch, Idube, Leopard Hills, Simbambili) and their sightings databases along with helpful Rangers and staff at the various lodges and reserves answering questions sent their way.

Roller Coaster/Rollercoaster Males, AKA Shaw Males, AKA Castleton Males Originally a Coalition of Six

These six males were born into the Castleton/Ximungwe pride in 1996. The same pride that also gave us the Tsalala Pride and the Ximuvanyane Pride.

They were sired by the 5 Sparta/West Street males (the same coalition that sired the Mapogo Males).

It is unclear how the Coalition of 6 was whittled down to just two by early 2006 but various reports suggests Bovine Tuberculosis and death by other lions was most likely the cause. By 2001 there were 5 surviving. 2002, four were surviving as one was believed to have been killed by another lion. One more disappeared and was believed dead by Aug 2002 leaving three. Of these three, one could easily be identified as he was missing an eye. The three became the dominant males of the Selati/Shaw Pride which by (2004) had 12 cubs sired by them. It was reported by Mala Mala in February 2006, that the one male missing an eye was confirmed to have died. He had been in poor condition for some time.

The two remaining Roller Coaster males had taken over the Eyrefield/Sparta pride by Aug 2006. This being the pride the Mapogo Coalition originated from. This pride today consists of three lionesses. Two are sisters of the Mapogo Males and the one old lioness may very well be the Mother to some of the Mapogos. The Eyrefield Pride currently has nine cubs approximately 18 to 20 mos old (5 males, 4 females) sired by the two Roller Coaster males and just recently accepted into their pride the Sub Adult male, Solo, from the Tsalala Pride of which the Roller Coaster male seems to accept.

The two brothers sought to oust the surviving old Split Rock male from his dominance over the Styx Pride. Which they finally succeeded in doing in 2007. It is suspected the Roller Coaster males contributed to the loss of all the Styx pride’s cubs in the later part of 2006.

Sadly, in June 2007 one of the Roller Coaster brothers was killed by a crocodile. Only one survives today. The lone survivor still has control for now over the Eyrefield/Sparta pride and their 9 cubs. He must also have some dominance over the Styx Pride, if any one lion can dominate the Styx Pride, as several of the Styx lionesses reportedly gave birth in 2008 with at least 9 cubs still surviving. The Styx cubs are believed to be sired by the old Roller Coaster male. He has been seen spending most of his time with the pride and interacting with the cubs. Though there is speculation that some of the Styx cubs may have been sired by the Mapogos, the old Roller Coaster Male accepts them all as his cubs.

Update received Mar 2009 from Andrew at Mala Mala: The two oldest Styx Pride cubs were sired by the old Roller Coaster Male, seven were sired by either the Roller Coaster Male or the Mapogos or a combination of both, the newest cubs recently born are sired by the Mapogos.

Upadte May 22nd 2009 The last two months have been erratic for the Roller Coaster male. It was reported he had been ousted as the dominant male of the Eyrefield Pride and the Styx Pride by two Mapogos (Kinky Tail and Mr T) that seem to be on a mission in Mala Mala to take control over these prides. The majority of the Styx Pride, with cubs in tow, have fled the area as well as the Eyrefield Pride. Eventually, the old Roller Coaster rejoined the Eyrefield Pride but they have suffered several attacks by the two Mapogos. These attacks have resulted in the deaths of two of the sub adult cubs and members being separated. As of this date, the 3 adult lionesses, 7 sub adult cubs, the old Roller Coaster male along with the young Tsalala male, Solo who has been accepted into this pride, have reunited and escaped into the Londolozi area. Only time will tell what the outcome of this conflict may be.

June 10th 2009 – Where are you “old” man? You were mysteriously missing from the Eyrefield Pride when viewed in Mala Mala.

June 26th 2009 – The old fella reappeared near the West Street area of Mala Mala. He was on his own but looking well. The next morning, he had disappeared once again.

Note of interest:

1. Lionesses from the Charleston pride (Mala Mala) are thought to be sisters or cousins of the Roller Coaster males due to interactions between the pride and the coalition when they were seen together in 2002/2003.

2. It is believed the Roller Coaster Coalition may have fathered the 2 younger Mapogo Males. When the Roller Coasters were a young coalition and still consisted of 5 surviving males, 4 ventured into West Street Males’ territory and were reported to have been seen mating with the some of the lionesses of Eyrefield/Sparta pride that the aging West Street males still held dominance over.

The lone surviving Roller Coaster male is a beautiful lion and we can only hope he is able to maintain his dominance over the Eyrefield/Sparta pride and the Styx pride long enough for the cubs to reach independence. Update: Seems the old lion has lost his place as dominant male of the Styx Pride and may well be losing it with the Eyrefield Pride as well.

He is a real “character” too. Rangers in the Mala Mala area often joke how he can find a meal no matter where it is. If it is free and easy, he will locate it. :) Along with his dislike of having to exert himself to secure a meal, he also seems to have an aversion to fighting/defending his territory. If their is a conflict involving other males, he is more likely to let the girls in his prides handle the situation while he hangs out with the cubs or heads in the opposite direction. All said and done though…. he is a remarkable “old” man!

Rollercoaster Male Lion roaring

Please remember this is a compilation of information gathered from various sources and nothing is set in stone.

Lion – Wikipedia

FaceBook Fan Page

More Histories on Lion Prides and Coalitions in Sabi Sands can be found on the Wildearth Ning Site.

July 1, 2009

By Aquila & Karen in VA